6 – God IS Unchangeable

The depth of knowledge concerning God’s character will ultimately determine the maturity of a believer or a Church. Similarly, the stronger the understanding of who God is, the more God centred and God exalting worship becomes. The greater the exploration of God’s nature, the stronger the Church’s vision of God’s majesty becomes with believer’s strength and courage growing in proportion to their understanding of Yahweh. The passion and purity of a Church’s teaching of doctrine and evangelism will determine the intimacy of their walk with the Lord.

Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
A significant part of a believers’ correct understanding of God is that He does not change. This is God’s “Immutability.”  “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Because God is eternally perfect (holy) in every thought, in all His values, and in every action, He has no need to change in any way. If God were to change, that would mean there must have been an imperfection or an incompleteness that needed correcting. And imperfection or incompleteness is NOT true of Yahweh. He cannot be improved upon, nor can He be lessened or worsened in any way because He is holy. Just as God is eternal in His holiness, so He is eternal in His unchangeableness, in His immutability.

In 1 Samuel 15:29, the prophet Samuel declared the Lord’s discipline to sinful king Saul. Samuel explained to Saul that He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind (NIV). Humans are always changing. We change our values, we change our speech and behaviour, we change our preferences, and we change our opinions. This remains a constant struggle for mankind, including Christians. Learning how to be constant in our beliefs and behaviour is an important part of our sanctification. However, as Samuel explained, because God is not human He is eternally unchanging in nature and thoughts. He does not possess the fleshly weaknesses and sinful inclinations which often promote change in us.

Now, before we continue, we need to understand that in humans, not all change is bad. As believers, God calls us to change for good, for improvement, and for greater holiness. Therefore, we are exhorted to change many things so that we can be more like Christ and more God honouring. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2). But this is not true of God as He is already perfectly perfect in every way (He is Holy).

The Lord revealed to Isaiah, my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). The difference between the way God thinks and the way we think is enormous. There exists a huge distance between the way we think and behave, and the way God thinks and behaves.

For God, holiness is natural and requires no effort on His part. But for humans, we are not holy by nature. As God observed before He flooded the earth in Genesis 6:5, the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And following the great flood, God still observed that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). Humanity’s sinfulness makes them changeable. God’s holiness makes Him unchangeable.

The Psalmist says the same about the created universe. Following sin being introduced by Adam and Eve, the heavens will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end (Psalm 102:26-27). Every created thing is changing, aging, and dying. Nothing and no-one can escape this constantly changing reality. But this is not true of God, as the writer of Hebrews 1:10-12 declares. “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” God does not age, He gets no older or younger. Just as He had no beginning, so He shall have no end, He is eternal and forever the same (Rev 1:8).

Further to this, James writes, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). Highlighting the microscopic perfections of God, James’ explains that the closer you inspect God the more you will observe that within His perfections there exists NO variations. There are NO exceptions to God’s holy and generous character towards His children. There are NO inconsistencies in God’s nature. James’ stresses the fact that there is NOT even a shadow due to change in God’s character. In other words, even in the secondary effects of God’s actions, in the consequences of what He does, there is total and unchanging consistency within His character. Every part of God’s nature endures as knowable constants of who God is.

Likewise, the writer of Hebrews testifies of Christ, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). This reinforces our understanding of Jesus’ deity. Jesus is God, He is eternal, and He is unchangeable.

Similarly, God is unchanging in His love for His people.
Psalm 103:17, the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children. God’s affections do NOT change like the world’s affections change. God’s expressions of loving devotion to His children are fixed and faithfully unchanging. As Paul told Timothy, even during those times when we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13). God cannot change His character simply because His children are inconsistent in the way they live. God’s faithfulness means that He is dependable, and it is NOT based upon our performance. Yahweh’s incredible  faithfulness is also expressive of the inter-trinity relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit who lives within every believer, including struggling believers. It is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Believer’s security stands firm, guaranteed by the unchanging and faithful nature of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God’s immutability is central to a correct understanding of the gospel, of salvation, and of believer’s eternal security.

Some people use the story of Abraham interceding for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:22-33), to argue that God changes His mind. When considering this account, we need to remember that the Lord new the outcome long before Abraham started talking with Him. Isaiah 46:9b-10, I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. God new Abraham’s thinking, his motives, and his vulnerable condition as a mortal man who could not control the events that God controls. God knew all along that He was going to agree with Abraham’s request to spare Sodom if only 10 righteous people were found, to which the Lord responded, for the sake of ten I will not destroy it (Genesis 18:32).

It was good for Abraham to engage with the Lord in this discussion, pleading for the potentially righteous people of Sodom. It was good for Abraham to realise that God is approachable, that God listens, and that God was willing to save the wicked along with the righteous residences of Sodom. Did God change His mind with Abraham, no! God simply allowed His predetermined will to play out by involving Abraham in the process. It was always God’s intention that Abraham’s discussion would be part of the process of fulfilling His will to save only Lot and his two daughters from Sodom (Gen 19:16-17, 26).

From Abraham’s human perspective however, he may have thought that he was negotiating a moving goal with the Lord. But that was just Abraham’s perspective. As we know, God sees things very different to the way we see those same things.

The same principle is true in our prayers today. From our perspective, God calls us to continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). We pray, we watch for how God responds to our prayers, then we adjust how we pray and continue to pray more and watch more. All the time we do this with thanksgiving because we understand that God knows what He is doing. This process of prayer is God’s predetermined method of including us in His work. This is how God engages believers, getting us involved in the process of working out His will in our lives while He remains unchanging.

Again, we see God’s infinite intelligence and power synchronising His predetermined will for our salvation with our responsibility to believe. Ephesians 1:11-13 explains this, God works all things according to the counsel of his will (:11). Then in verse 13, we read that we heard the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believed in him. From our perspective we think we made the decision to believe which then changed God’s mind about us. We assume this happened because we believed. We assume that God responded to our belief for the first time by adopting us (Eph 1:5). But this is only our human perspective. From God’s perspective, He has not changed His thinking about us. He had always determined for us to believe and to include us in that process of hearing the gospel and responding to the gospel. We changed our mind towards God, which is what God had planned for us to do. But God did not change His mind towards us, He simply brought His plan to completion within us.

Psalm 33:10-11 declares, the LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Here we see that the Lord is determined in His immutability. While earthly nations may think that they can do as they please, and they may think that they determine their destiny, they are wrong. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1). Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand (Proverbs 19:21). Yahweh’s will does not change, it was determined in eternity past and fulfilled within human history. What Yahweh wills, He does. God is also unchanging in His desire to save sinners from His judgement.

We see that the Lord had Noah preaching for up to 100 years while he built the ark. Peter says that God brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others (2 Peter 2:5). God could have killed every human including Noah and his family, but He didn’t. Even though Noah sinful, he was righteous when compared to the evil world population (Gen 7:1). God showed grace in saving Noah and his family.

Peter reminds us that the Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise (of coming judgement) as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord’s moral loving kindness is constantly reaching out to sinners with the invitation of salvation. He gives everyone many, many opportunities to repent and receive forgiveness and eternal life. At the same time, the Lord’s sovereign love exercises His will by calling and electing sinners according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (Ephesians 1:9).

These two truths work together in perfect harmony. God’s moral love toward all sinners (John 3:16), and God’s sovereign will (Eph 1:3-14) synchronise perfectly with each other while engaging human responsibility to repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). Yahweh is consistent and persistent in reaching out to save those who are dead in sin (Eph 2:1). He is unchanging in His efforts to show mercy to those who do not want His mercy. Romans 9:15-16, God says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

John 1:12-13 reads to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. God is unchanging in saving sinners, in giving spiritual rebirth, in overriding the sinful will of humans by gifting them the necessary faith and repentance (Eph 2:8-9; 2Ti 2:25) so that they can believe and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

a) Added to all the other qualities of God which deserve our worship, we include His unchanging character in our worship.
b) Because the Lord is unchangeable, we can trust Him, depending on Him to keep His Word and never failing us.
c) The Lord’s unchanging mercy expressed through the gospel inspires us to share the good news of the gospel with the unsaved.
d) In our discipleship we teach God’s immutability so that those who are younger in faith can grow in the depth of their faith because God will change on them.
e) Believer’s hope for the future is strengthened because we understand that Yahweh has already determined the beginning to the end. The future events of Revelation are prewritten history for God. God will make it happen because He is not going to change. What God will, God does. And that will never change.

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